Archived Outdoors

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge picks new director

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge has named Julie Whalen as its new executive director. 

Whalen was first hired in 2017 as director of membership and marketing and became assistant executive director of the Roanoke, Virginia, based organization in 2020. She started her new position as executive director on June 1, replacing former director Mark Hogsed, who left for a position at a non-profit Christian ministry. 

“From concerts and trail maintenance to playgrounds and tree plantings, it's a very exciting time for the organization, and I look forward to supporting our members and volunteers as they find ways to have a lasting impact in their communities,” Whalen said. 

Whalen plans to work closely with the board of directors and officers to expand the group’s volunteer and membership base while furthering the organization’s mission to protect and preserve the Blue Ridge Region. The group has more than 1,500 members and nearly 750 volunteers with nine chapters, including chapters in Waynesville and Asheville, that empower and coordinate volunteers, projects and events. 

 “With her first-hand knowledge of our organization, volunteers and members, Julie is the right person to lead our organization,” said Dan Wells, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Board of Directors president. “During Julie’s time with FRIENDS, we’ve seen her ability to connect with people and communities, and that’s an integral part of this job. Not only does she have a wealth of experience in managing membership programs, she is passionate about forging meaningful relationships with our members and chapters who are the lifeblood of our organization.” 

The organization was formerly known as FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Last year, the National Park Service informed FRIENDS that it would not be renewing its partnership agreement with the nonprofit. As a result, the organization has had to regroup, and Whalen has been instrumental in helping to refocus those efforts, Wells said. She led one of FRIENDS’ first initiatives to engage new community partners in April when she conceived and coordinated the Blue Ridge PBS television production Friends of the Blue Ridge JAM featuring the Junior Appalachian Musicians. 

Prior to joining FRIENDS, Whalen spent nine years as Kiwanis International’s membership director for North America.

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